Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday attraction: Aakashagopuram

By KK Moidu

Aakashagopuram, a highly acclaimed Malayalam film that was shot entirely in the UK, has been released on DVD

In time for the holiday season, fans of Malayalam cinema are treated to the latest offering featuring the superstar, Mohanlal. The DVD of the Mohanlal-starrer Aakashagopuram, a highly acclaimed Malayalam film, was launched last week by Medient & Moser Baer at London Suites Hotel, Dubai.
According to the producers, Aakashagopuram is the costliest Malayalam movie ever made, and they hope the film will change the face of Malayalam cinema. The film is an adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen classic The Master Builder and aimed at the expatriate Malayalee audience mainly in Europe and America.
Present at the event were the male lead of the film Mohanlal, director KP Kumaran, Medient CEO and producer Manu S Kumaran, Moser Baer CEO G Dhananjeyan, film maker Sudhir Mishra and Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh.
Moser Baer CEO Dhananjeyan said, "We are very proud to present the home video of a critically acclaimed Malayalam film of Mohanlal and it is chosen for screening in many film festivals within a short period." He added the home videos of the film with English subtitles are available at affordable prices in the stores across the globe. They also have plans to bring the home videos of more Malayalam films.

Top ranking Malayalam hero Mohanlal plays the lead role as Albert Samson, a middle-aged architect. He sports an all-new look of stylish shoulder length hair and the popular French beard (bulgan). The film delves deep into the life of Albert’s single-minded focus on his job and the problems that creates in his married life. Shwetha Menon as Alice plays his wife in the film.
Late Bharath Gopi acted in the role of Abraham Thomas, the former employer of Albert and whom he helped to reach the top. Thomas wants his son Alex (Manoj K Jayan) who is working with Albert to have more freedom in the company. Albert fears that the growth of the younger generation of architects will be a setback to his career. He does not allow Alex to design new projects independently. He also does not allow him to leave the firm. Albert also fears that he is losing his creative powers. Then a cheerful teenager Hilda Varghese, who has idolised Albert a decade ago in the early stages of his career, arrives in his stressful life with a helping hand. Debutante Nithya plays Hilda Varghese.

Other prominent artistes of the film are Sreenivasan and Geethu Mohandas.
National award winning director KP Kumaran, who is known for his deep commitment to female empowerment through his films, paints an intriguing portrait of one man’s struggle for success in the film. Santosh Thundiyil is the cinematographer and Ajith Kumar edits the film.
Aakashagopuram is entirely shot in the United Kingdom, with an international crew including Emmy Award winner John Altman, who composed music for Titanic, Shall We Dance, Golden Eye, Bhaji On The Beach etc. The film also brings together the best talents from UK and Hollywood for visual effects of John Harvey/Jonathan Russler (28 Weeks Later and Kingdom of Heaven) and re-recording mixing of Robert Farr & Mathew Gough (Star Wars: Episode II & III, Gangs of New York etc).

Aakashagopuram is produced by Tutu J Sharma, Taizoon F Khorakiwala and Manu S Kumaran under the banner of Medient and Tarlac.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Master of expressions: Thilakan

Thilakan, one of Indian cinema’s finest actors, speaks to KK Moidu about his personal experiences in showbiz

A two-time National Award winner for film acting, Surendranath Thilakan, was in town recently to receive an award for his lifetime achievement and contribution to Malayalam cinema at a star-studded AMMA Award function held at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. This rare honour came at a time when the thespian is facing a boycott from those of his ilk following a war of words. An acclaimed actor, known for speaking his mind, Thilakan has just chosen to ignore the industry reaction but alleges that the actors’ guilds were being used to safeguard the interests of a few people. He has said this before and in September, except director Thulasidas and some small-screen artistes, none of the Malayalam film industry personalities attended his daughter’s wedding. But even his detractors cannot deny the fact that he is a brilliant actor.

In his own estimation, the creative freedom that film-makers give him has helped him breathe life into the characters he portrays. Osteoarthritis has imposed physical limitations and he has fewer assignments now but he still managed a national level special mention performance in 2007 for Ekantham. Even the film technicians’ guild, MACTA, made an exception recently and honoured him though he is not a technician. His boundless talent is likely to bring him into reckoning once again. In an acting career spanning over five decades, he has gifted the audience many memorable characters. The first screen character he portrayed in 1973 mouthed famous lines from Shakespeare’s works like Hamlet’s words “to be or not to be.” He fondly recalls the dialogues as well as each frame of that film. In the climax, after both the character’s father and sister die, he wonders aloud “Two deaths for one love, so how many deaths for love since the beginning of the world."

Thilakan has always held the audience spell-bound, irrespective of the type of role. Whether it is the lead role, villainy, comical role or character role, the fate of the film has never affected his career because he always excels. He is admired, in particular, for his roles in Kolangal, Kireedam, Rithubedham, Perumthachan, Sphadikam, Moonnaam Pakkam, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Randaam Bhavam, Kaattu Kuthira, Maya Mayooram, Yavanika, Ekantham, Santhana Gopalam, Mugha Mudra (double role), Gamanam, etc. to name a few. His terrific dialogue delivery in villainous roles in Tamil films inspired the audience to refer to him as “super villain.” While other artistes beg directors for a role, the pricey Thilakan has had roles falling into his lap. Directors and producers count on him for important roles, which they believe only he can portray. The actor was paid his full fee for his role in Oru Yathramozhi, directed by Priyadarsan, although he has only one or two scenes in it. He dubbed for SP Balasubramaniam for the children’s film Magic Magic on the singer’s insistence and again received the full fee that he charges for a film. The seventy-three year old actor suffers from many ailments and says that he has to have at least 30 tablets a day. Last month he had to be hospitalised and was in ICU for a couple of days, but ill-health has not robbed him of his appetite for challenging work. Recently he completed a telefilm and three other movies — Orkkuka Vallappozhum, Red Chilies and Makante Achan. He played the lead as the seventy-five year-old Sethumadhavan in Orkkuka Vallappozhum, directed by debutante Sohan Lal. Next he was to reach the location of his forthcoming film directed by Thaha. During this interview for Time Out, he was in his hotel room in Dubai, relaxing before taking an early morning flight home. Here are the excerpts:

Tell us about your entry into filmdom?

I made my film debut in the lead role in Periyar, released in 1973. The film was written and directed by PJ Antony and produced by Hassan-Rasheed. Their earlier choice for the lead was the late Prem Nazir.

How did you get selected for Prem Nazir’s role?

I was working in PJ Antony’s theatre troupe and he recommended my name for the role and they agreed with some reluctance. Although PJ Antony was confident about my talent, the producers had their doubts about casting an unknown actor like me in the lead role and they also feared the audience reaction.

Tell us about your character in Periyar?

My character’s name was David and my father’s role in the film was played by PJ Antony. David was an intelligent youth, who dreamt of becoming a collector. He attends the civil services personal interview fully prepared to answer every possible question. However, his interviewer asks him questions outside his syllabus like “How many buckets of soil does the Himalaya have.” This shocks the bright young man and after the incident, he starts asking strangers odd questions like “How many litres of water does the Periyar river have” and he also advises them “If you don’t know, measure it and find out, then you can become a collector in future."

Did you get many offers after Periyar?

The same year I appeared in four scenes in Madhu-Sharada starrer Gandharvakshethram as the hero’s friend. I also got another offer from a leading banner, Udaya, but the project was shelved and in the next six years I didn’t get a single film offer.
How did you return to the silver screen after six years?

I returned to the film industry by playing a minor role in Ulkadal, directed by KG George and released in 1979. After two years I played the lead in a challenging role as a drunkard, Kallu Varkey, in Kolangal directed by KG George.

Did you receive any kind of training in acting?

No. Talent is inborn and nobody can train a person in acting. However, one can be trained in the technical aspects of film-making. I started acting in my school days and was the best actor in college after which I began my career as a theatre artiste. I was expelled from my college for misconduct and left my home and struggled in life without proper food or shelter. That struggle made me determined to succeed in my chosen vocation.
After becoming a full-time theatre artiste I honed my acting skills by reading books on cinema authored by Russian and American masters. This included the works of Academy Award nominee, Michael Chekhov, and literary scholar AC Bradley, who is best known for his criticisms on Shakespeare. I also watched many foreign films, which had famous actors like Sir Sidney Poitier which helped me to experiment and improve my acting skills.

Why did you leave home?

I was born into a rich family but had very little freedom to pursue my interests, especially acting. My father was the employee of a plantation company. I didn’t have the freedom to talk to people from my surroundings and left home at the age of 19 to pursue total freedom. My obstinacy that I would not return helped me reach this position today.

You have worked in several drama troupes like KPAC, Kalidasa Kala Kendra, Changanassery Geetha, PG Theatres etc. Did that help in shaping your film career?

My theatre experience helped me in films and that gave me an entry into films. But acting in dramas and films is very different. If an actor continues the same drama style of acting in films it would have a negative impact. As a film actor I have done my best to avoid the drama style of acting in films. PJ Antony, the first National Award winner for Best Actor from South India, later told me that as an actor he was not fully successful in outgrowing his drama style of acting even after entering films.

Who is your mentor?

Zoology Prof. Shivaprasad in my college offered me constructive criticism for my performance as Mark Anthony in the college drama.
After closely watching my performance, an imitation of Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Mark Anthony in the Hollywood film, he told me that the applause from my colleagues belonged to Marlon Brando as I was not visible in the role. Prof. Shivaprasad headed the Arts Club and he was in charge of selecting the final plays. Himself, a good actor, he told me that acting was not imitation. He encouraged me by saying “I want to see your performance as Mark Anthony and you can do better.” I took pains to switch from Marlon Brando’s Mark Anthony to my Mark Anthony and finally won the best actor award from the college. This gave me an opportunity to rethink and closely watch the audience response to my performance.

Is a good physique and handsome appearance a must for an actor?
No. If beauty and physique were crucial for an actor, I would not have been in the industry because I am not a handsome man, but I have been active in the industry for so many years. Others who are alive and started their acting careers along with me are still in the industry. Acting is more important since beauty is visible only on the face of the character. If beauty is indispensable, the Academy Award winning black actor, film director, author and diplomat Sir Sidney Poitier would not have been a box-office star. He is not at all good looking and when he smiles his gums are visible. However, I was really impressed by the actor’s performance especially in To Sir With Love. Many actors, who are not good looking, have proven their mettle as actors in Indian and world cinema.

How important is voice for an actor?

Voice is extremely important and that is the identity of an actor.

What about today’s music and film songs?

Music is the basis of all other arts and a good actor has to have a good sense of rhythm. Mohanlal is an example of this. However, most of the current film songs are a challenge to society.

Are you satisfied with the present state of Malayalam cinema?

Malayalam cinema reached world standards 15 years ago, but the standard of Malayalam cinema is declining with each passing day. A good movie should have a good story with a message for society and there cannot be any exceptions to this.

Who is responsible for the low standard of Malayalam cinema?

Producers and directors.

Film-makers say the audience is more interested in commercial entertainers and meaningful films have no audience?

Who says so. Kazhcha and the recently released Kadha Parayumbol etc. are good films and have done good business at the box office.

Do directors respect you as a senior artiste and give you the creative freedom or do they interfere in your work and come up with suggestions?
Most of the directors know each artistes’ capabilities and how much they can trust them to come up with a worthy performance. Even very efficient and experienced directors trust me because of my vast experience. Director Fazil gave me full freedom during a scene in Ente Mamaattikuttiyamma, where a priest is told by the girl’s adoptive mother that he should not visit their home. My character’s smile in the scene has sarcasm and conveys the message that the lady has finished him for good. The scene was appreciated by Fazil and also well-accepted by the audience.
The director duo Anil-Babu were doubtful about the audience reaction to the sentimental expressions of my character Madhavan Nair in the climax scene of Santhana Gopalam. But the audience reacted positively. I believe that a sad scene does not necessarily require lengthy dialogues. The expressions and situations are sufficient to convey the feelings to the audience.
I prepare for a role by studying the script well. Some directors accept my performance while others express their doubts about the audience reaction. I never make changes and it has proven to be successful.

Can you think of any National Award-worthy performances in your past films?
Many of the roles that I played had the potential of fetching me the National Best Actor Award especially the ones in Moonnaam Pakkam, Irakal, Kireedam, Kolangal, Ekantham, Rithubedham etc.

Most of the Malayalam artistes have appeared in the recently released multi-starrer Twenty 20, but you are not there?

They did not approach me for a role.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Romantic touch-Vinay Rai

Model-turned actor Vinay dons an action hero's role in MODHI VILAYADU, directed by Saran. KK Moidu writes

Young and talented hero Vinay from Bangalore made his film debut in the lead role in cinematographer-director late Jeeva's superhit Tamil film Unnale Unnale. The tall and handsome Vinay was romantic in each frame in the film. He paired with two leading ladies like Tanisha, Bollywood heroine Kajol's sister and Anniyan fame Sada.

Vinay won the hearts of audience in his maiden venture as a new romantic hero of the Tamil industry. His cheeky smile, charming attitude and easy performance earned him a lot of fans, especially young girls. His urban looks, thick hair and trimmed beard has made him the latest heartthrob of Tamil youth.
Vinay made his Telugu film debut as a hero in Vaana, a remake of Kannada superhit Mungaru Male. Vinay couldn't repeat his Tamil success in Telugu and Vaana bombed at the box office. The pleasing hero repeated his pull at the box office in the second Tamil film Jeyam Kondaan. Bhavana and debutante Lekha Washington played the female leads in the film. The box office success of the recently released Jeyam Kondan made him a sought-after hero of the Tamil industry.

Jeyam Kondan produced by Satya Jyothi Films was directed by debutante Kannan, a former associate of Mani Ratnam. Director Kannan was impressed by the actor's hardworking nature and entertaining performance. Chocolate boy Vinay will be featured as the hero in Kannan's forthcoming film.
Vinay Rai born on Sept.18, 1979 and hails from Bangalore. He is a ramp model and a regular in fashion shows. He is also a rugby player and was part of the Indian squad that toured Bahrain in 2001. He captured the hearts of young audience with his perfect looks and right attitude. Vinay did not lend his voice for the previous films but he will dub in his own voice in forthcoming films.

Unlike other heroes, Vinay is not keen on a particular image and ready to work according to the script. He is ready to play even characters with negative shades. As an actor, his main priority is to entertain the masses and perform well on screen.
Vinay, a young hero with a naughty look, is flooded with offers from leading directors and prestigious banners after the success of Jeyam Kondan. He will play the male lead in Ayngaran International's forthcoming film Manavar Dhinam. The film is also the comeback vehicle of director Kadhir, who made Kadhalar Dhinam. Kadhir's last venture Kadhal Virus was a disaster at the box office and the director hopes the new project with a success guaranteed hero will bring back his lost glory in Tamil cinema.
However, Vinay will romance five young heroines as a Romeo in the remake of the yesteryear superhit Nootrukku Nooru. Selvah, a master in remakes including the recent hit Naan Avan Illai is the director of the film. It will be produced under the prestigious banner of Kavithalaya and Vinay plays Jayashankar's role in the original. According to reports, Sandhya, Sneha and Kasthuri are the three heroines. Sandhya and Sneha are the top heroines of the industry and Kasthuri played female leads in many South Indian films earlier. Being a successful heroine for a couple of years, Kasthuri decided to stay away from the limelight and she is making a comeback in a prominent role in Nootrukku Nooru. Lakshmi Rai, Maheswari and Banu are the lead choices of the director for other heroine roles.

Former Bollywood actress Hema Chowdhary will play a mother's role in the film. Salim Ghouse will return to the industry after a long interval by playing an important role in the film. Imman tunes music and a popular song from the original Unnai Vazhthi Padukiren is being remixed for the movie by Imman.

Although Vinay has acted in two Tamil films and a Telugu film, he is a rising star of the Tamil industry. The dashing hero plays a macho-man's role for the first time in his career in forthcoming film Modhi Vilayadu. One of the highlight of the film is a racy chasing scene recently shot in Pudhucherry, choreographed by veteran stunt master Thyagarajan. The chasing sequence was shot for more than 15 days featuring the hero Vinay, Santhanam, Cochin Haneefa and Kalabhavan Mani.

Director Saran, an earlier assistant of K Balachander is known for making superhit films like Amarkalam, Attagasam, Parthen Rasithen, Vasool Raja etc. Saran's last film Vattaram starring Arya was not well accepted by the audience. Saran has added all the commercial elements for the success of upcoming film Modhi Vilayadu for regaining his top director status of the Tamil industry.
Mumbai based Kajal Agarwal is the heroine of the film. Sneha and Tanushree Dutta were the earlier choices of the director for the heroine role. Colonial Cousins (Hariharan and Leslie Lewis) composes music for the lyrics of Vairamuthu. The action packed entertainer filmed in Kuala Lumpur, Finland and Dubai tells the story of a young man's journey to regain his identity. He struggles to establish a place for himself in the society.

According to reports, Bollywood heroine Shilpa Shetty will perform an item number in the film. The actress gained international attention after winning the TV reality show Big Brother and she is returning to the Tamil industry after 12 years. She last appeared in the Tamil film Mr Romeo opposite Prabhu Deva. Shilpa's sizzling performance in Mr Romeo in the song Muthu Muthu by Ila Arun and her appearance in Macareena of Vijay starrer Kushi made her a darling of the Tamil audience. Shilpa is one of the "Top 100 sexy women of the world" as per several websites and magazines across the world.
Shilpa's comeback vehicle Modhi Vilayadu has already gained the industry's attention for various reasons. If the film rings the cash registers at the box office, the young actor Vinay will become a complete hero, who can perform all kinds of roles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Queen of hearts: Sara Raza Khan (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa participant from Pakistan)

An hitherto unknown Sara Raza Khan of Pakistan was in the limelight recently for her participation in the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, where she lost but impressed all, writes KK Moidu

Teenager Sara from the city of gardens, Lahore, Pakistan, is the first Muslim girl to take the big leap by competing in a musical reality contest like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, in spite of stiff opposition from people of her community.
Although, Sara from the ‘Heart of Pakistan’ didn't win the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 trophy, her mind-blowing and soulful performance will surely take her a long way. Her great voice and expression not only placed her among the top eight contestants in the prestigious contest, but she also won plaudits from all corners. Sara was eliminated in Episode 37, on Nov. 7.
Eesha Koppikar and Sonu Sood were also present on the occasion to promote their film Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi and the stage was decorated like a marriage hall. Himesh and Shankar represented the “bride's side” and Aadesh and Pritam were on the “bridegroom’s side.”
Sara rendered to perfection the popular film song Bole Chudiyaan, in her sweet voice, and everybody showered praises on her. Her singing improved a lot in the course of the competition, but she still became a victim of public voting. Her melancholic and innocent voice and modest attire made her stand out among the participants.

Sara, who hails from Pakistan’s cultural centre sang like a professional. The judges were impressed with her unique voice and expressions but also pointed out the wrong pitching.
After her elimination on the basis of SMS voting, Sara said a big thank you to the audience for their support and appreciation.
‘Pak Ki Mallika’ Sara is the daughter of late Qadeer Ahmed Khan and Kulsoom Jehan Qadeer. Her father was an engineer and her mother is an Urdu teacher. She has two elder brothers, Ahmed Raza Khan and Hassan Raza Khan and a younger brother, Mujtaba Raza Khan, a class I student. Her elder sister Ayesha Raza Khan is a singer and television anchor and the family’s financial support since her father died three years ago.
Sara was overjoyed when she was selected for the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 competition, but her mother and relatives were hesitant to send the teenage girl to a culturally liberal country like India to participate in the contest. Their main objection was to the kind of image one is expected to acquire, to gain mileage in the entertainment industry, like revealing costumes. This, they said, went against their culture and religion.

However, Sara's mother finally agreed to send her daughter for the competition after an assurance from the channel that they would not make her wear clothes that were revealing. Her relatives, however, were not happy about her participation in the contest. They feared that a music competition held in a country like India where boys and girls intermingled openly and rehearsed together would give her opportunities to befriend male participants. Another major hurdle was that the girl would have to sing Hindu devotional songs during the competition.

Then there was the possibility of her being treated as an outcast by other participants. Sara’s relatives also objected to the fact that she and her mother were living in a big city like Mumbai, without the presence of a male relative.

However, Sara overcame these hurdles. She talks about her dream to become a legendary playback singer. Here are some excerpts:
Who was the first to recognise your musical talent?
My lovely mother recognised my musical talent and motivated me. My best music teacher Sir Abdul Rauf, encouraged and supported me by training me in classical music.

What is your background in music?
I have no musical background, I am the first girl in my whole family to learn classical music. I want to be successful with my God-gifted talent.
I started learning classical singing just two years ago from Sir Abdul Rauf, a teacher at the prestigious Al Hamra Arts Council, Lahore. After a month's training from a sincere teacher like Sir Abdul Rauf, I got a chance to perform in front of General Pervez Musharaf, former president of Pakistan. He appreciated me a lot and also invited me to his birthday at the President House. After that people started recognising me, I got many opportunities for anchoring, singing and also performed in many live shows on different TV channels.

Tell us about your selection to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?
Legendary singer Ghulam Ali Sir selected me for the audition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa from Lahore as the only and first girl from Pakistan (Pakistan Ki Beti which now known as Pak Ki Mallika).

What were your relatives’ and neighbours’ reactions to your participation in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge?
Well! Reactions of my relatives were a mixture of positive and negative comments. But the majority were extremely happy and excited for Pakistan Ki Beti, and now in Pakistan, people are excited and warmly welcoming me. And one more thing, my country is also very happy that it appreciated me and motivated me a lot.

What was your experience in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa like?
It was really awesome, superb, outstanding, mind-blowing history. Ya, it was! Because I just dreamed to be in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and when it really happened, I thank the Almighty and the audience for their prayers.

Tell us about the judges and audience?
All the judges of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 are very sincere, talented and motivating persons. They all are very successful in their fields and I want to work with them.
Audience! wow! I think that it's really very astonishing for me that the audience from all around the world loved me, appreciated me and blessed with their votes and prayers. I was very attached to my viewers and I am taking a lot of beautiful memories back with me! The way the audience chanted my name, took my autographs, also wrote plenty of mails to me and all these memories always make me emotional. I pray to God that all the viewers always love me and remember me! I am sure that today all India Loves Me!

What do you plan to do now?
My future plans are to learn more classical music, be a great playback and live show singer, to earn a lot of respect and be one of Allah's favourites.

What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to be a great singer and earn money and fame to make my elder sister the happiest woman in the world. I also want to help those strong women, who are divorced and are alone with their little babies at a young age.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009

The musical reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 airing on Zee TV every Saturday at 8.30pm has reached a very crucial stage. The final contenders are competing with each other for the coveted title of Challenge 2009 at a global level. The musical war with unmatched talent and quality was launched on July 8, with 32 contestants, selected from five regions and 25 countries like India, Pakistan, Australia and Middle East.
Popular host Aditya Narayan lends his own voice to the show with his personal style of putting the participants at ease and gently providing them with the required encouragement, making him special. Another attraction of the show is the participation of celebrity guests like Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgan etc.
The programme is not only a musical reality show but also a contest between four musical maestros; Adesh Srivastava representing Jai Gharana, Dhoom Gharana's Pritam Chakraborty, Shankar Mahadevan's Lakshya Gharana and Himesh Reshammiya retains membership of the Rock Gharana.
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge recently changed its format in its 13-year history. In the new format all participants from each Gharana will perform and the disqualified participants are eliminated. The decision was taken after a heated argument between the judges. Finally, it was decided that it would not favour the selection of the best participant among some exceptional singers. But this sort of arrangement is appropriate from the SMS point of view because the listeners may forget some good singers and the current weak singers will be on top of their minds. According to the new format, all the participants get an opportunity to sing in two episodes and one of them is eliminated every week.
Although the programme is 14 years old with Himesh Reshamiya, Shankar Mahadevan, Adesh Srivastava and Pritam as the mentors, the same format was running for the past 13 years. The talent hunt Sa Re Ga Ma Pa has contributed some names to reckon with in the music world like Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Kunal Ganjawala, Shreya Ghosal etc.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Best for laughs: Cochin Haneefa

KK Moidu talks with versatile Malayalam film artiste Cochin Haneefa on his roles in films and new projects, while he was in Dubai recently

Director-actor-scenarist Cochin Haneefa was roped into the UAE by the organisers of Gulf Mappilappattu Awards 2008 as the chief guest. The ishal night held at Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai on Oct. 31 honoured the veterans and latest talents of Mappilappattu (Muslim songs).
Despite of the fact that Haneefa was tired after the journey, he managed to chat without showing any sign of discomfort. This shows his personality, a very humble man indeed. He is one of the most popular comedians and a favourite among children and young audience. Although he entertains all kinds of audience with his stylish wit and humour as an actor, he also won the hearts of family audiences for years as a director-scenarist. He has directed seven Malayalam films and six of them were re-mad e in Tamil. His superhit movies like Valsalyam, Veena Meettiya Vilangukal, Moonnu Masangalkku Munpu, etc. are indeed the pillars of family oriented Malayalam films. However, his last directorial venture Bheeshmacharya, a commercial film, unfortunately bombed at the box-office. Haneefa plays second fiddle to superstars in the last couple of years, but he has proved his mettle as an actor by playing all kinds of roles. As a comedian his unique style of dialogue delivery and his flexibility in donning any kind of role made him closer to the audience. His special skills for making the audience laugh in any kind of role; like an ordinary man or a senseless police officer makes him different from other comedians. His role as Dharmendra in Pulivaal Kalyanam, Philippose uncle in Swapnakoodu, Vikraman in CID Moosa, Thrivikraman in Meesa Madhavan, Kittunni in Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka, Veerappan Kurup in Ee Parakkum Thalika, Sundaresan in Friends, Gangadharan in Punjabi House, etc. are only few examples of Haneefa's touch. Even after gaining popularity as a comedian, he managed to create a deep impact by playing a negative role like Victor Sebastain in Dubai. He also played a full length title role in CI Mahadevan Anchadi Nalinchu as a police inspector. "The low budget film was a commercial success at the box-office" says Cochin Haneefa. Although former screen villains like Bheeman Raghu, Janardhanan, Rajan P Dev etc. won appreciation by playing comedy roles, none of them succeeded like Cochin Haneefa in handling comedy. He continues his comedy ride with recently released Malayalam films like Kurukshetra, Thirakkatha, Thaavalam, Parunthu etc. Cochin Haneefa is equally popular in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and has won appreciation for his performance. He has done prominent roles in recently released Tamil films like Aegan, Poi Solla Porom, Jayam Kondaan, Pattiyal. He won rave reviews for his role as Sami in the Arya-Bharath starrer gangster film Pattiyal and the land broker role in the Karthik Kumar starrer Poi Solla Porom directed by Vijay. His hands are full with offers for several Tamil films like Aa Aa Ee Ee, Mothi Vilayaduthu etc. and also important roles in forthcoming Malayalam multi-starrer films like Twenty Twenty and Mammootty's Pattanathil Bhootham. Haneefa developed an early love and passion for acting and mimicry. He won many prizes in mimicry and drama in his school and college days.

He was adjudged the best actor of Kerala University and remained the best for four years in school and five years in college. His mimicry skills and acting talent earned him an easy entry into filmdom.

He made his film debut as an actor in Azhimugham directed by P Vijayan as a boat driver. Madhu and Jayabharathi played the leads and the film was an average hit at the box-office. Haneefa was a first year degree student at the prestigious St Alberts College and got the opportunity to exhibit his mimicry talent in the debut film. "I appeared in a small role in the film, my imitation of late Tamil heroes MGR and Sivaji Ganesan was enough for gaining the attention of audience," says Haneefa.
He sailed with the passage of time and managed to evolve in other aspects of film making, like script writing and directing.
He has acted in around 300 films in a variety of roles in more than two-and-a-half decades. He terrorised the audience as a screen villain in several films and was a favourite for directors in negative roles especially in Vadakkanpattu films.
Haneefa always made his presence felt in the films he directed. As a director, he could have easily made his roles bigger in films but always preferred to appear in small roles, this shows his passion for film making. "I never did roles which I don't deserve in my films or other director's films. I could have easily made my little roles longer at least in my films like Valsalyam. But that appearance was enough for the character and why should I drag my role," says the actor, with his trade mark laugh.

As a successful director he did not face any problem in finding a producer. He is planning to direct films in the future either in Tamil or Malayalam. He added, "at present, I am busy as an actor in Malayalam and Tamil. But I will direct a film in one of these languages in the near future." He is not ready to disclose the story and details of the film because he fears others will make the films with the subject.
His real breakthrough role came in 1989 as a street rowdy in Kireedam. Mohanlal played the lead in the film directed by Sibi Malayil and written by Lohithadas. "The transformation from villain to a comedian was accidental. "My role in Kireedam was welcomed by the audience as a comedian. After the success of the film, directors started casting me in comedy roles and as an actor I have succeeded in satisfying the audience," says Haneefa.
Kireedam, released in 1989, was recently remade into Tamil and Telugu languages and Haneefa played the same role in both the versions. He has succeeded in making the audience laugh with his humorous performance but the actor said, "the character lost its originality in a jeans costume."
Tamil remakes of his successful Malayalam films put his name on the top directors lists. His three Tamil films scripts were penned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
Haneefa is a regular in the films of famed director S Shankar. He proudly said, "S Shankar is one of the best film makers and it is my luck to play roles in hit films like Vikram-starrer Anniyan, Rajinikanth-starrer Sivaji The Boss etc. I am playing an important role in the forthcoming big budget film Robot directed by Shankar. My co-artistes of the film are superstar Rajinikanth and the former Miss World Aishwarya Rai."

Cochin Haneefa not only had the luck to play important roles but also shared screen space with senior and young heroes. A good friend of legendary actor Kamal Hassan, Haneefa made his Tamil film debut in Kamal Hassan-starrer Mahanadi by frightening the girls as a pimp.
The multi-talented actor is trying his luck as a singer in a Mappilappattu Album, which will be released next month. He said, "I love Mappilappattu and it is my first attempt, I am singing six songs for two albums."
pics: Nisham A Manaf/The Gulf Today

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Memorable break: Shilpa Bala

Dubai-based girl Shilpa Bala makes her debut as a heroine in a double role in ORKKUKA VALLAPPOZHUM, writes KK Moidu

A 11th grade student of Indian High School, Dubai, Shilpa Bala is indeed lucky to portray a double role in her debut screen appearance in Orkkuka Vallappozhum (Remember once in a while). One of these roles is that of a 16-year-old girl, Parvathi aka Paru, against a 1947 backdrop. "It was a real challenge," recalls the newcomer, who is back in Dubai after completing shooting for the film. Born and raised in Dubai, her roots are in Kanjangad (Kasargode district) in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although the family does not boast any links with film personalities, her father Balagopal, a bank employee, is an ardent fan of Ottamthullal, a traditional folk art form. Her mother Indulekha is a trained dancer and works in a private firm in Dubai. Shilpa has a younger sister, Shwetha, studying in class 10 in Indian High School, Dubai. Says an exuberant Shilpa: "I am very happy that the film's director and my co-artistes were satisfied with my performance and now I am awaiting the verdict from the audience, the final judges." Sharing screen space with a legendary actor like Thilakan was a matter of luck for the beginner and it has given her fresh insights into acting techniques. "Although I am a debutante, the guidance of the director, the co-operation of other artistes and the experience gained on the small screen, helped me to deliver a good performance," says Shilpa. Sohanlal, the director of the film said: "Shilpa is an artiste with 100 per cent commitment and dedication. She dons a double role in the film, the two roles are entirely different and she did it fantastically. One of her character is too expressive and the other role demands underplay. Shilpa is talented and beautiful to become an artiste like Manju Varier. The industry is in need of new faces and I wish her a bright future." The fact that the director too is a debutant has not doused her enthusiasm one bit. It is pointed out to her that the film lacks the usual elements of commercial cinema or a saleable leading man. To this her argument is, "if the audience accepts my roles in Orkkuka Vallappozhum, I can perform any kind of role in future without difficulty. Had I made my debut in a superhit commercial entertainer without much importance for the heroine, I won't be able to shine in meaningful roles in the future." Shilpa's other role in the film is that of Devayani, a teenage girl in contemporary society who is the antithesis of Paru. Devayani is also different from other modern girls. When compared to Paru, portraying the role of Devayani was far easier, says the young actress. A good singer, Shilpa lent her voice to both characters. Orkkuka Vallappozhum is an old man's journey to the innocence of his past. Thilakan plays a 75-year-old Sethumadhavan, who after reaching an old bungalow in the high ranges one wintry night, recalls the sweet moments from his childhood and adolescence. The death of his wife has created a void in his life and along with it the endearing memories of Paru, his childhood companion of the same age as him, sends him on this journey down memory lane. But the bungalow's keeper, Kashi, tells him about the tragic end of his one-time sweetheart, hearing which the distraught old man rushes to the deep pit into which Paru had fallen and died. Renjith Menon of Goal fame plays the teenage Sethumadhavan and Jagadheesh portrays Kashi. The film is produced by Vinu YS under the banner of God's Own Moviz. M Jayachandran has scored the music. The film's three lovely songs have been penned by P Bhaskaran and Girish Puthencheri. The music director himself sings one of the songs. The other playback singers are P Jayachandran, Rajalakshmi and Anand, the anchor of Amrita TV's dancing competition Let's Dance. Orkkuka Vallappozhum is written and directed by Sohanlal of the mini-screen fame. The film is due to hit the screens in Kerala in November, introducing one more graceful heroine. The very first impression one gets after watching Shilpa is that she has the right blend of beauty and talent, something the audience looks for in a heroine. The gorgeous looks are accompanied by an impressive smile and the attractive eyes have a tinge of innocence in them. Without doubt Malayalam cinema has its new girl-next-door. The debutante has won much appreciation for her dancing and has participated in various youth festivals. She won a Kalathilakam at the Arabia Youth Festival 2005. She is a student of dance master Sasi Kottakkal and began training at the age of four. In addition to winning a scholarship at the school level for dancing, she has also won prizes for other art forms like mono act, light music, classical music and dramatics both at school and outside. Says Shilpa: "Dance has always been my passion and to learn more than what I have is the goal I look forward to achieve in every field I venture into." Since fifth grade she has anchored several shows on Malayalam TV channels like Asianet, Kairali and Jeevan TV etc during DSF. "The role of an anchor has helped in building up my confidence and has given me a different view about the world and people I come across. It has given me a lot of experience and the confidence to carry out stage programmes all by myself with ease," says Shilpa. She is also a bursary winner for oratory (public speaking), which is a training given by professionals to students, who have won prizes outside school in the elocution category. Shilpa is also an RJ at the school radio station, which airs 15 minutes on working days at school. She is the cultural secretary of the school and has been the captain both at the junior as well as senior school. Although she is facing the arc lights for the first time, Shilpa has appeared in the advertisements of Anashwara Jewellery, Solar Furniture, UAE Exchange Centre, Pardha House and Churidhar House etc. Smilingly Shilpa gives all the credit to her parents, relatives and friends. She says: "the encouragement and support given by them at all times gave me success and I think nothing would be complete without a thank you to God for his blessings." Expatriate girls making a debut in films is nothing new and leading South Indian heroine Sneha, was also raised in Dubai. She made her debut in the Malayalam film Ingane Oru Nilapkashi. Although her debut film Ingane Oru Nilapkashi opposite Kunjacko Boban bombed at the box office, she is a much sought-after actress in the industry. Sneha has already acted as the leading lady in over 50 films in all south Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. However, Shilpa Bala, a fan of Tamil films, is only interested in meaningful roles though language is not a problem. Shilpa's favourite actor is Mohanlal and among actresses it is Shobhana and Urvashi. After completing the 12th grade, Shilpa wants to specialise in fashion designing for graduation. Her other interest is psychology. A dearth of screen leading ladies has been one of the biggest problems faced by the Malayalam film industry. Along with the migration of heroines to neighbouring states for better remuneration, early retirement by established actresses has aggravated this problem. The latest heroine to hint at retirement is Kavya Madhavan. Her retirement after marriage will definitely create a void. Although Shilpa hails from the same district as Kavya, she lacks the native accent, which endeared Kavya to the audience. But as far as talent is concerned, Shilpa is second to none and the audience will get a taste of this in November and most probably receive her into their hearts.